Winter weather’s arrival throughout the eastern United States left George Mason High School’s varsity boys basketball team with one game this past week, a 60-51 victory over local J.E.B Stuart High School.
Mason’s inexperience continued to show in the match-up against Stuart. In what has proven to be a consistent theme, the Mustangs have their opponent on the ropes with a controlled double-digit lead, only to surrender it in a matter of minutes and have to scrap their way out of a funk. It’s a characteristic that’s shown up in nearly every game, and it’s getting hard for the Mustang brass to account for it.
“We don’t know how to finish yet,” head coach Chris Capannola said. “It’s always a good spurt followed immediately – not by a mediocre spurt – but [looking] completely lost. [Opponents] get open shots, we foul someone, we don’t guard someone on an inbound play, and the [other] team’s right back in the game.”
A quick nine-point lead over the Rebels dropped to two in a few minutes, only to widen again minutes later to a 13-point advantage. The ups and downs are expected with a youthful squad– the varsity team only returned three players this year–but the extremes the team goes through make every game a toss-up.
This isn’t to say Mason is a bad team; they have winning record at 7-5. Against Stuart, the Mustangs outscored the Rebels 49-31 through three quarters, only for the lead be undone in the fourth when a 22-point cushion prompted Capannola to play reserves. It’s these kinks that need to be smoothed out for this team to realize their true potential.
But even with the inconsistent play, Capannola sees similarities between this squad and last year’s 29-1 state semifinal finishers.
“This team reminds me a lot of last year’s team when they were sophomores – [we] could not put a team away,” the head coach said. “We either lost by one or two possessions or we’d win by one or two possessions, and that’s the difference. Experience and knowing how to finish.”
Mason has the positive traits to be a bonafide contender in postseason tournaments next month. The team shoots a remarkably high 50 percent from the field in their wins. That’s all the more impressive considering two sophomores are their leading scorers. However, defensive communication and ball security are consistent issues for the Mustangs and have left them out to dry this season.
The Mustangs will look to hone their craft on the road tomorrow, Jan. 12, against Clarke County High School.